Visualizing Our Emerging Future – Revised


As our emerging future shifts continuously, our challenge is to shift with it. The number of building blocks that combine continues to explode, challenging our ability to track its complexity. I’ve used a visual representation of this challenge – and I see older versions floating around – so I am updating it via this post. When I use the visual in presentations, I build towards it to avoid its overwhelming nature (which I believe accurately reflects the overwhelming nature of the challenge). I will replicate the approach here by building towards the full visual.

Convergence across aspects of science, technology, economic forces, politics, society, our environment, and a growing conversation around ethics, is creating a highly uncertain world. At the heart of the pace dynamic is the exponential progression of science and technology – reflected in the first piece of the visual.

Science and Technology Curve

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YouTube Channel Launch


YouTube Channel

The journey to the future is gaining more attention for both the opportunity it presents, and the fear of unintended consequences. Dialog and proactive action are critical to shaping this emerging future in human-centric ways – a story line that is nicely articulated in a new book titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I am a firm believer that shaping the future requires a different mindset. As stated in the book, we must all adopt a zoom-in and zoom-out strategy: zooming in to acquire an understanding of the characteristics and potential disruptions of specific advances in science and technology; and zoom out to see the patterns and combinations that emerge.

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Early 2018 Reading List


Update January 22nd: I am adding a book just released to this short list – Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution

I’m often asked for book recommendations that aid with future thinking exercises. A good source in 2018 for this type of exercise is Fast Future Publishing, whose goal is to profile the latest thinking of established and emerging futurists, foresight researchers and future thinkers from around the world, and to make that thinking accessible to the widest possible audience. Their innovative publishing model bypasses most traditional publishing channels and accelerates time to market. Two books that I’d recommend for early 2018 are described below, and a new book due out in the spring is also included.

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An Uncertain Future


I have used this Emerging Future visual to demonstrate the overwhelming number of combinations that will conspire to create our future. The science and technology foundation converges with societal, political, economic, and environmental forces to build towards a very uncertain future. A future that I believe represents the third massive tipping point in human history.

This very short animated video describes the visual.

Strategy and Multiple Futures


I recently engaged with fellow futurists on an article for Digitalist Magazine titled Why Strategic Plans Need Multiple Futures. I think the authors truly captured the challenges of strategic planning in a world where pace and the sheer volume of change makes our emerging future anything but predictable. The focus on story telling as the most effective way to communicate potential futures is powerful, and the Lowe’s example really brings that point home. I recommend this articles to leaders everywhere. Here is a powerful quote:

“Companies like Lowe’s are realizing that standard ways of planning for the future won’t get them where they need to go. The problem with traditional strategic planning is that the approach, which dates back to the 1950s and has remained largely unchanged since then, is based on the company’s existing mission, resources, core competencies, and competitors.

Yet the future rarely looks like the past. What’s more, digital technology is now driving change at exponential rates. Companies must be able to analyze and assess the potential impacts of the many variables at play, determine the possible futures they want to pursue, and develop the agility to pivot as conditions change along the way.”

A Future Thinking Canvas


Our exponential pace is due in part to the overwhelming number of building blocks available to innovate. Understanding how these building blocks combine provides a glimpse into possible futures. In this visual, dots connect to portray the building blocks that are likely to extend our healthy lives – a key emerging future scenario.

Healthy Life Extension - Combinatorial

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The Timing of Future Scenarios


Timing. It’s one of the most difficult facets to consider when thinking about the future. We know that convergence across societal, political, economic, science and technological forces is creating many future scenarios. We also know that enablement is happening at an exponential pace. Some believe (present company included) that the coming macro-level tipping point is likely to impact humanity on a scale only experienced twice in human history (hunter-gatherer to agriculture and agriculture to industrial). There will be many micro-level tipping points on the journey towards an automated society – and the timing of those tipping points is impossible to predict.

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